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This article is about Birmingham in England; see also Birmingham, Alabama and other towns called Birmingham

Birmingham is a city in the West Midlands in central England with a population of 977,087 (2001 Census). Birmingham is generally considered to be England's "second largest city" after London.

City of Birmingham
Population:977,087 (2001)
Ethnicity:70% white, 16% asian, 5% black
Region:West Midlands
County:West Midlands
Neighbours:Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Solihull, Worcestershire, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall
Stations:New Street, Snow Hill, Birmingham International, Moor Street

Table of contents
1 Introduction
2 Industry
3 The Arts
4 Sport
5 Learning
6 Local government
7 Transport
8 Canals
9 History
10 Famous Residents
11 Districts
12 Nearby places
13 External links


The city is situated in the West Midlands conurbation, of which it forms the largest part. Along with the city of Wolverhampton, the Black Country and a number of surrounding towns, this conurbation consists of around 2.25 million people.

The city is commonly known to its inhabitants as Brum (from the old name "brummagem") and its inhabitants known as Brummies. Birmingham residents also speak with a distinctive Brummie accent. The people are generally regarded as hard working, and having an unusual sense of humour that is quite unique. It is often said that "you can always tell a Brummie, but you can't tell him much".

Birmingham is a multi-cultural city, with a large population from the Indian sub-continent and Caribbean: according to the 2001 census 29.7% of the population of Birmingham is non-white. This has meant that the city has a surprising mix of cultures. Birmingham balti restuarants are reputed to produce the best Indian food outside India.

You will often hear Brummies quoting the facts that not only does Birmingham have more canals than Venice but that it also has both more parkland and more trees (per person) than any other city in Europe. Birmingham certainly does boast an unusual number of trees, and there 35 miles of canals within the Birmingham city boundaries (by comparison there are 26 miles of canals within the centre of Venice - that is, within the six sestieri, and thus a much smaller land area than Birmingham[1]).

Birmingham is also a popular tourist attraction - about 22 million people visit the city every year. It's top attractions include the Art Gallery, Bull Ring, Cadbury's World and the somewhat bizzarrely located (given that Birmingham is relatively distant from any coast) National Sea Life Centre.

The City's coat of arms shows two figures, representing Industry and The Arts.


The conurbation is an industrial centre, home to the Jaguar and MG Rover Group car companies. Until 2003, coins were manufactured at the Birmingham Mint, the oldest independent mint in the world. Other famous brands from the "City of a thousand trades" include Cadbury chocolate, LDV vans and HP Sauce. Past brands include Bird's Custard, BSA motorbikes, Bakelite, Lucas, the Mini and Ansells Beer.

Birmingham also has a history of making railway carriages, wire, steam engines, aeroplanes, guns, precious-metalware, jewellery and even -- unusually for somewhere so far from the sea -- ships (which were made as pre-fabricated sections, assembled at the coast).

While manufacturing is still important to the city, and to its future, the local economy is rapidly diversifying; in particular, professional and financial services and tourism are growing quickly. More details about the Birmingham economy can be found at " class="external">

Once considered the Industrial Backbone of Britain, Birmingham has in recent years been extensively redeveloped, with the city centre now a more attractive and pleasant place to walk around.

The Arts

The bands Black Sabbath, The Beat, Spencer Davis Group, Charlatans, Dexy's Midnight Runners, Dodgy, Duran Duran, ELO, Judas Priest, The Moody Blues, Magnum, Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, The Move, Ocean Colour Scene, Steel Pulse, Traffic, UB40 and Wizzard all originated in Birmingham, as did the musicians Joan Armatrading and Steve Winwood.

In fiction, Birmingham was gently satirized by David Lodge. The fictional town of Rummidge and its University which feature in several of his novels, were based on Birmingham. Judith Cutler's crime novels are set in present-day Birmingham. The fictitious characters in the long-running Radio 4 serial The Archers often visit Birmingham, where the programme is in fact made.

Arthur Conan Doyle lived in Aston from about Spring 1879 - early 1882 and many of his works include refences to people or places he knew there.

Washington Irving lived in Birmingham for some time, during which time he wrote stories including Rip van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Bracebridge Hall, or, The Humorists, A Medley is based on Aston Hall.

Symphony Hall, home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, is in the City Centre. Among a crowd of other venues, the National Indoor Arena (NIA) and the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) are located in Birmingham, and host a huge variety of concerts, exhibitions and other shows. Some of Birmingham's dedicated music venues include the Birmingham Carling Academy and the Academy 2, Scruffy Murphy's and Edward's No. 8.


Birmingham is home to two professional football teams: Aston Villa and Birmingham City (nearby West Bromwich Albion's ground The Hawthorns used to be divided by the Birmingham/ Smethwick border, but was moved completely into the latter by a minor rationalisation of local government borders in the 1960s).

Warwickshire County Cricket Club play at Edgbaston.

Lawn Tennis was first played in Birmingham.

The first ever football league was invented by a Birmingham man in Aston.


Birmingham has three universities: The University of Birmingham, Aston University and The University of Central England (UCE, formerly Birmingham Polytechnic). The UCE has asked Aston to consider a merger.

Local government

Most of Birmingham is traditionally a part of Warwickshire, except for the bits which have traditionally been parts of Staffordshire or Worcestershire, having been absorbed by the city as it expanded, or during more recent boundary rationalisations. The city became a county borough in 1889. It later became a part of the West Midlands metropolitan county upon its creation in 1974. Since the West Midlands county council was abolished in 1986 it has been a unitary authority area.

Birmingham is presently governed by Birmingham City Council - the largest local authority in the UK.


Due in part to its central location, Birmingham is a major transport hub.

Public transport: A plethora of railway lines from all over Britain radiate from Birmingham New Street station, the central hub of the UK rail network, with regular train services to all the major cities in the UK including London. Trains to London can currently also be caught at Birmingham Snow Hill station, though Snow Hill's London services are due to be diverted into Moor Street station in 2004.

Local rail and bus services (in the West Midlands county) are overseen by the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive, Centro, which works under the policy and financial guidance of the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority. Travel West Midlands (Travel WM) runs the majority of bus services.

The Midland Metro, a light-rail tram system promoted by Centro, currently connects Birmingham to Wolverhampton via West Bromwich and Wednesbury. Further expansion in Birmingham City Centre has been approved.

Roads: The M6 motorway connects Birmingham to London and the south, and the north-east of England and Scotland. Junction 6 of the M6 is also one of Birmingham's most famous landmarks, and probably the most famous motorway junction in the UK: Spaghetti Junction, officially called the Gravelly Hill Interchange. Other motorways include:

Air: Birmingham is served by Birmingham International Airport, which has flights to all over Europe and to New York. The airport is connected directly to the rail network at Birmingham International.


Although it has no major river (the Rea, on which the City was founded, is now little more than a culverted stream, and the Tame, which only passes through the northern suburbs, is not navigable), Birmingham is at the hub of the country's canal network. Canals in Birmingham include:


Early History

Small farming settlements existed in the Birmingham area since the Bronze Age. In Roman times, the Ryknild Street Roman road passed through what is now the Birmingham area, and a large military fort and marching camp existed at Metchley in what is now southern Birmingham. Remains of pottery kilns dating from the Roman period have also been found in the Birmingham area.

Until the Middle Ages, due to poor quality soil which made agriculture unproductive, the Birmingham area was for centuries a sparsely populated backwater. Much of the area now covered by Birmingham was covered by the once vast Forest of Arden.

After the Norman conquest of Britain the area passed into the hands of the De Birmingham family (sometimes spelt De Bermingham) who established a farming estate. The De Birmingham estate was mentioned in the Domesday Book, and was valued at 20 shillings.

A settlement at Birmingham came into existence in the year 1154 when Peter de Birmingham obtained a charter to hold a market, a settlement grew up around this market named Birmingham after its founders. The De Birmingham's retained control of the area until 1527, when John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland gained control of the town.

The market was called the Bull Ring and was the centre of all activity in what was then a village. Birmingham became a Borough in the early 13th century.

From the 16th century onwards Birmingham became a centre of many metalworking industries, with a skilled population of ironmongers. Birmingham also became a centre of arms manufacturing, with guns and swords being produced in the town. This trade was greatly helped by the English Civil War: Birmingham manufacturers supplied the Roundheads with much of their armaments. Reputedly, 15,000 swords were produced in Birmingham for Oliver Cromwell's forces. In 1643 Birmingham was sacked by the royalist forces lead by Prince Rupert.

Industrial expansion

Birmingham's skilled workforce, and the fact that Birmingham was located near the coalfields of northern Warwickshire and Staffordshire, meant that the town grew rapidly during the Industrial revolution.

Population Growth in Birmingham by year

During this time Birmingham was home to Matthew Boulton, James Watt, William Murdoch, Joseph Priestley and others, who, together, were known as the Lunar Society.

In the late 18th and early 19th century Birmingham became a centre of the canal system, which greatly aided its industrial growth.

In the 1830s the Grand Junction Railway (linking onwards to Liverpool and Manchester) and the London and Birmingham Railway were built and Birmingham New Street station soon became the hub of the railway network.

During the 19th century Birmingham's population mushroomed and by the middle of that century Birmingham had become the second largest population centre in Britain. It was also during the 19th century that Birmingham gained its reputation (which continues to this day amongst many of those uninformed of recent changes) as a grim industrial city. In 1873 Joseph Chamberlain became mayor of the city. Under his leadership, the council introduced many innovative civic improvements, including municipal gas and water works which improved the lighting and provided clean drinking water to the city; and opened numerous public parks.

Birmingham became a county borough in 1889, and a city in 1896.

20th Century

During the 20th century Birmingham's population continued to rise. An important industrial centre, the city was heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe during World War II, in a failed attempt to break the morale of the city's workers. In total, 2,441 Birmingham residents were killed by German bombs during the war.

In the postwar years a massive program of slum clearances took place, and vast areas of the city were re-built, with overcrowded "back to back" housing being replaced by high rise blocks of flats (the last remaining block of four back to backs are to become a museum). The city centre was also extensively re-built, especially the Bull Ring Shopping Centre. Birmingham also became a centre of the national motorway network, with Spaghetti Junction.

In 1974, two city-centre pubs were bombed by the IRA.


In the years following World War II a major influx of immigrants from the British Commonwealth changed the face of Birmingham, with large communities from Southern Asia and the Caribbean settling in the city, turning Birmingham into one of the UK's leading multicultural cities. As of 2001 29.7% of the city's population is made up of ethnic minority communities. Amongst the largest minority communities: 10.6% of Birmingham residents are Pakistani, 5.7% are Indian, 6.1% are Black Caribbean or African, and 2.9% are of mixed race.

Since the early 1980s Birmingham has seen a new wave of migration, this time from communities which do not have Commonwealth roots, including people from Kosovo and Somalia. Birmingham's reputation as a city built on migration looks to continue. If Birmingham ended the 19th century as a Commonwealth city, the future diversity of the City is set to be global.

Disputes between ethnic groups and the authorities culminated in the Handsworth Riots in 1985.


In the 1970s, the National Exhibition Centre was built, 10 miles southeast of the centre, close to Birmingham International Airport. Although it is actually just inside neighbouring Solihull, it was instigated, and largely owned by, Birmingham Council, and is thought by most people to be in the city. It has been expanded several times since then.

The International Convention Centre (ICC) opened in central Birmingham in the early 1990s.

The area around Broad Street was extensively renovated at the turn of the Millennium, making it possible to walk beside the canals. In September 2003, after a year long redevelopment project, the new Bull Ring was opened. The city recently failed in its bid to become the European Capital of Culture in 2008, under the banner "Be in Birmingham 2008".

Famous Residents


Birmingham is located at 52°30" North, 1°50" West.


Nearby places



External links